Ternary Operator in C Programming: ? : (Conditional Operator)

The ternary operator, represented as ? :, is a powerful and concise way to express conditional statements in C programming. It allows you to make decisions and assign values based on a condition with a single line of code. In this article, we’ll delve into the basics of the ternary operator, providing real-world examples and output demonstrations to help you master its usage in C programming. The ternary operator (? 🙂 is a valuable tool in C programming for expressing conditional statements in a concise and readable manner. In this article, we’ve covered its anatomy, provided a real-world example, and highlighted its benefits and limitations.

Anatomy of the Ternary Operator

The ternary operator consists of three parts:

  1. The condition: A Boolean expression that evaluates to either true or false.
  2. The question mark ?: Separates the condition from the true expression.
  3. Two expressions separated by a colon :: The expression to be executed if the condition is true (left side of the colon), and the expression to be executed if the condition is false (right side of the colon).

Example: Using the Ternary Operator

Let’s see a practical example of the ternary operator in action:

#include <stdio.h>
int main() {
    int number = 10;
    int result;
    // Using the ternary operator to determine if 'number' is even or odd
    result = (number % 2 == 0) ? 1 : 0;
    printf("Is %d even? Answer: %s\n", number, result ? "Yes" : "No");
    return 0;


Is 10 even? Answer: Yes

In this example:

  • We check if number % 2 is equal to 0, which is a common way to determine if a number is even.
  • If the condition is true (i.e., number is even), the result is assigned the value 1.
  • If the condition is false (i.e., number is odd), the result is assigned the value 0.
  • Finally, we print the result as “Yes” if it’s 1 (even) and “No” if it’s 0 (odd).

Benefits of the Ternary Operator

  1. Conciseness: The ternary operator allows you to write conditional expressions in a single line, making your code more concise and readable.
  2. Ease of Understanding: It makes your code more self-explanatory, as the intent of the condition and the resulting actions are clearly expressed.
  3. Reduced Code: You can reduce the number of lines in your code by using the ternary operator for simple conditional assignments, making your code more efficient.

Limitations of the Ternary Operator

  1. Complex Conditions: Using complex conditions within the ternary operator can make the code less readable. In such cases, it’s better to use traditional if-else statements.
  2. Limited Actions: The ternary operator is best suited for simple assignments based on conditions. For more complex logic, traditional control structures are often more appropriate.
Author: user